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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Monday: Part 2

We spent the day in San Josecito talking with community members. They described how rich the region is in natural resources–bananas, cacao, lumber, coal, water, etc. This leads to conflicts, with elites using military and paramilitary forces to displace poor farmers from their land. CSN has long worked with this community. Previously the military and paramilitary set up roadblocks between the village of San Jose and the city of Apartado, but now these armed forces remain more hidden. The leaders consider the situation to be more dangerous now, and feel as if it is building up to another massacre. Their faces carry the expression of being marked.

Beatriz is an artist who paints community scenes to describe their history and struggles. Community members are determined to stay and defend their land. Not only would it be hard to adapt to a new country with a different culture, Beatriz noted that they have an Indigenous heritage and want to remain where their roots are. They refuse to retreat, and are determined to continue to defend their land and rights. Beatriz related that people in the community have always said that San Jose will die standing rather than living on its knees.

At the end of the day we drove up to San Jose de Apartado which peace community members had abandoned 2 years ago after a massacre that killed community leader Luis Eduardo Guerra. The military then occupied the town, allegedly to protect it. The community that previously had prohibited all armed actors from entering is now crawling with soldiers and police. A sign at the entrance gives the seemingly contradictory message of "Welcome to San Jose de Apartado, Land of Peace - National Police." The community had outlawed alcohol, but now is full of bars as well as evangelical churches. It was eerie. We looked around and then quickly left.

After 10 years of resistance the peace community has faced much suffering but also triumphs. They know that they will continue to face deaths and that at any moment they can be killed. But they defend the truth, and the memory, transparency, and clarity of martyrs like Luis Eduardo gives them the strength to continue. They are determined to fight until the last person, even as new seeds of resistance are born in the community. Since being displaced two years ago, nine children have been born. Even in the face of incredible repression, San Josecito has hope for the future.

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